Memphis residents fall victim to elaborate ‘skimming’ operation

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — You've probably heard of skimming devices before. Thieves put them on gas pumps or other places you swipe your debit or credit card. The device gets your card's information, but one group of accused thieves is getting people's PIN numbers, too.

They clone debit cards and use them to get cash at ATMs. A lot of victims from this scheme are from Memphis, something police in Clinton, Mississippi, recently discovered.

The department caught on when both Regions Bank locations found cloned debit cards in their ATMs. That's because some of the victims noticed withdrawals they never made and closed their accounts.

"Their ATMs are set up to lock these cards in once it's determined fraud, so good job ATM machine," Detective Nick Sprawles said.

Clinton police tied the crimes to three guys who were recently caught in Middle Tennessee allegedly doing the same thing.

"One of them was one of our suspects," Sprawles said.

His name is George Zica, and he showed up on bank surveillance video. Police said he and the other two suspects are part of an international crime syndicate.

"My understanding, it's large," Sprawles said.

The group allegedly puts high-tech skimming devices on card readers we use at stores all the time. It fits over the top perfectly, making it hard to notice a difference.

It captures your debit card information and PIN number. Then the thieves take a gift card and code it with your information.

Drayton Mayes owns a cyber security company  in Memphis called "TeamLogicIT." He's never seen a skimming operation like this.

"The ability to capture that PIN number without using a camera, that's very sophisticated," he said.

He has some tips to remember before you swipe.

"Take a look at the machine itself," he said. "Start moving the pieces. Start moving the little cover that they have. See if it moves. This might be indicators that the machine has been tampered with."

Clinton police will have Zica extradited there to face charges. Again, investigators said he and the other two suspects are part of that international organization.

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